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Five Reasons The New Miami Beach Bike Share Kind of Sucks

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Just about everyone with a cerebral cortex agrees the planet is getting warmer, and we driver assholes are the ones to blame. So it's hard to hate on efforts that encourages us to ditch our gas-guzzlers and put some effort into getting around town.

But we'll make an exception for Miami Beach's new bike share program. The new 1,000-bike project emulates initiatives in Paris, Barcelona, DC, and Minneapolis. Mayor Matti Bower will unveil the project on Tuesday. Despite a four-month delay, her office is calling it "the most comprehensive citywide program of its kind in United States."

Beyond the hype, however, Miami Beach's bike share is bogus. Here are five reasons why the initiative is a letdown.

5. It's Too Expensive:
Back in August of 2009, Bower signed an agreement with DecoBike to install more than 100 solar-powered bike kiosks. Each kiosk would be lined with rental bikes that could be returned anywhere on the island. In the agreement, DecoBike suggested it would cost $1.95 - $3.50 to rent a bike for half an hour, between $3.95 and $6.95 for an hour, and monthly memberships would cost $9 - $16.

In reality, however, the fares are steeper: $4 for 30 minutes, $5 for an hour, or $10 for two hours with each additional 30 minutes costing another $4. In other words, if you choose to rent it for half an hour and return it one minute late, you're out $8. In DC, the price is $5 for an entire day.

4. It's Really For Tourists:
The membership subscription is so steep that it makes little sense for Miami Beach residents to sign up. The bare minimum membership (if you only use a bike 30 minutes at a time) costs $15 a month for a total of $180 a year. There is also a refundable $100 deposit, but it's unclear if that's on top of the $180. For that kind of money, you're better off buying your own bike.

Compare Miami Beach's $180 yearly membership with a similar program in the nation's capital. Capital Bikeshare charges Washington DC residents only $75 a year (30 minutes at a time, like DecoBike) and just $1.50 extra for an extra half hour.

3. Parking is Already a Bitch. Now It'll Be Worse:
Yes, yes. We know. Cars are bad; bicycles are good. Why not trade parking spaces for bike racks? Well, we'd be all for it if these were public bike racks (of which there are very few on Miami Beach). But they're not. They benefit a private company (see #1) and they are essentially for tourists (see #4).

Residential parking is already a bitch in South Beach. And as anyone who lives there knows, it's become a lot tougher since the city started tearing up 40-foot stretches of nearly every block to install the DecoBike racks. Some kiosks occupy three or four parking spots, and there are already 50 of them, with 65 more planned for Middle and North Beach. In some cases, you can throw a football from one kiosk to another. To add insult to injury, the kiosks have been empty for months weeks, glaring at would-be parkers like giant solar-powered middle fingers.

In the agreement, the city estimates that it is "donating" 50 parking spaces to DecoBike. But with 115 planned kiosks, the real number is likely much higher. In other words, the city is getting rid of several hundred residential parking spaces in order to make more cash off of tourists. Thanks Miami Beach!

2. Vandalism:
Remember the pink snails? Those lil' guys were abused right quick when they came to Miami Beach. And if bike shares in other cities like Paris, Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), and Cambridge (UK) are any example, these bikes will be broken, stolen, or burned in no time as well.

1. Mediocre Deal for Miami Beach:
Let's be honest. Although public health is certainly an incentive, Miami Beach signed the deal with DecoBike in order to make some money. The problem is, it's far from clear that the city is getting a good deal. According to a Miami Beach committee memorandum, DecoBike projects the city will make between $1.9 - 3.4 million over five years from the project. Not bad. But the city's share doesn't account for the lost parking revenue. Nor does it consider the pain of being woken up at 7 a.m. all winter long while DecoBike installed the kiosks.

DecoBike, on the other hand, will make anywhere from $836,000 to a whopping $9.6 million over that same time period, depending on the program's success.

DecoBike Marketing VP Colbert Reese, disagrees with our assessment, of course. He points out that the DC bike share is funded by tax payer dollars, whereas DecoBike is a private venture (with public benefits like free spaces around town). Reese claims (rather implausibly) that no one has complained to him about the price and argues (more convincingly) that $180 isn't too much to spend on a bike that you don't have to fix, store, or worry about getting stolen. He says DecoBikes are sturdier and better designed than the vandalized bikes in other cities. And it's not just for tourists.

"Most of our marketing is geared towards residents," Reese says. "It's really a commuter solution."

He concedes that some people have complained about the parking snafu, but is pretty snobby with his response. "The goal is to cut back on car usage," Reese says. "If people actually do the research on what bike sharing is before complaining, they wouldn't complain."

"DecoBike is not to blame for (the parking problem)" he adds. "At the end of the day when the bike stations are open, public opinion will be positive."

Bike shares are a great idea, and some work well. But it's uncertain whether the DecoBike program will benefit the city government all that much, let alone local residents who have nowhere to park and can't afford to rent a bike.

As Reese says, only time will tell how Miami Beach receives the bike share program. But we're afraid it will be with beach cruisers set ablaze on the beach.

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